Every year in the UK, around 3,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer, and it is the most common type of cancer in women aged 35 and under. But according to a survey by the charity, Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust, one in three women don’t attend cervical screenings because of ’embarrassment’. Now the charity has launched Cervical Cancer Awareness Week, to try and raise awareness of the disease and what women can do to prevent it.

“The week is a great opportunity to reach as many people as possible and explain how they can reduce their risk of diseases,” says The Fire Fighters Charity’s Nursing Services Lead Kath Savage. “Two women in the UK lose their lives to the illness every day and nine women are diagnosed every day, but three quarters of cervical cancer cases could be prevented by cervical screening.”

Cervical cancer forms in the cells that line the cervix, which is the lower, narrow part of the womb. It its early stages, cervical cancer may not present with any symptoms,  but it can be prevented through regular screening, more commonly known as smear tests. These free health tests are available to everyone between the ages of 25 and 64 who is registered as female with a GP surgery.

For many people, the fear or uncertainty of what happens during a smear test is enough of a factor not to go, but Kath says this has to change: “75% of cervical cancer could be prevented by smear tests,” she says. “It is not thought to be hereditary, and 99.7% cases of cervical cancer are caused by persistent infections with a virus called high risk human papillomavirus.”

The symptoms of cervical cancer include lower back pain, pain during sex, bleeding during sex or between periods, post-menopausal bleeding or unusual vaginal discharge.

“If you have any of these symptoms, I would encourage you to see your GP immediately,” says Kath. “Knowing what symptoms are can help you know what to look for, so you will know when to seek medical advice. But even if you don’t have any symptoms, make sure you book your smear test as soon as possible, and know how to access support and information.”

And if you do discover you have cervical cancer, or any other type of cancer for that matter, know that The Fire Fighters Charity is here to help you come to terms with this.

“A cancer diagnosis can be very frightening and is often life-changing,” says Welfare Services Lead Carrie Donohue. “We can provide practical support and guidance to help you adjust. Many people find having a plan in place to help you and your family through difficult times can be useful and really helps with understanding your wishes for the future.”

Things you might want to consider when facing a cancer diagnosis:

Finances: Do you know what you’re entitled to? Often income is reduced as there is a loss of earnings, so check Welfare Benefits, or statutory grants for adaptions within your home. Also consult any insurance policies you may have in place that may be able to help with paying your mortgage or replacing lost income.

Help at home: Do you need help with things like personal care, aids or adaptations? Or will you in the future? Consider how to make your home as accessible as possible to take some of the stress out of the situation.

Legal issues: Do you have a will and have you appointed a power of attorney? Make sure your wishes for long-term care and treatment are known, as well as any provisions you want to be put in place for your family in the future.

Tackling isolation: Do you know where to access local support if you need it? Having someone to talk to can reduce feeling isolated, which is the last thing you want when facing a terminal diagnosis. Speak with your local Macmillan nurse who will be able to steer you in the right way of support groups in your area.

“There is a lot of support available, but often just knowing where to start can be a minefield,” says Carrie. “Don’t suffer alone, and if you would to find out more information, the Charity’s Welfare Services Team can help.”

Whether you are a member of the fire service or the dependant of one, we may be able to help you with your mental, physical and social wellbeing, depending on where you are with regards to your diagnosis and treatment.

For further information about accessing our services, get in touch online or give the Customer Care Team a ring on 0800 3898820.

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